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Monday, 20 July 2015

From Today's Papers - 20 Jul 2015

India looks to improve defence ties with Myanmar
Ahead of Myanmar’s landmark first election under a military-backed quasi-civilian government, India has offered the neighbouring country its armed forces’ experience on working in a democracy.

This, even as New Delhi seeks to boost its defence ties with Nay Pyi Taw to counter China's growing strategic influence.

New Delhi has offered to help Nay Pyi Taw modernise its armed forces, providing not only military hardware but also training Myanmar's armed forces personnel.

India has also offered to help Myanmar augment the forces' Information Technology edge.

The first meeting of the India-Myanmar Joint Consultative Committee  in New Delhi, co-chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Myanmar’s Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, saw New Delhi seeking to boost its defence ties with Nay Pyi Taw to deal with “emerging security challenges”.

Swaraj conveyed to Lwin New Delhi’s commitment to help Nay Pyi Taw build “a professional and capable Myanmar Navy to safeguard and ensure its maritime security”.

India’s offer to support Myanmar's Army and Navy and, at the same time, its nudge to the neighbouring country's military to adapt to democratic processes, is significant, coming just weeks after New Delhi’s security cooperation with Nay Pyi Taw was highlighted by their tacit coordination during Indian Army’s surgical strikes along the India-Myanmar on camps of insurgent outfits operating in the North-East.

Ahead of polls
It also came just four months before an election which could prove to be a landmark for Myanmar. It is going to be the first to be held under the government of President U Thein Sein, who has been pursuing political reforms in a country that has been under military rule for years.

Though the military still has substantial control over the government there, the November 8 election is expected to be the freest and fairest since 1990, when the first multi-party election in decades was held in the country.

Nobel-laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had won the elections, but the country's ruling military junta refused to give up power.

Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest, will lead the NLD in the elections, although a controversial rule may bar her from being elected as the next president. 
Though India has over the past few years stepped up its engagement with Myanmar's Army, New Delhi is also keen to support its democratic processes.

Lwin’s tour to New Delhi is likely to be followed by a visit by the Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Rafale — the larger picture
Adequate fiscal commitment needed for all three forces
THERE was a lot of heat and dust in the immediate aftermath of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement in March to acquire 36 Rafale aircraft from France, in a government-to-government deal, instead of the 126 originally intended through a global tender. There were insinuations, conjecture and general commentary on the motive, political capital and worthiness of the decision. On balance, more commentators gave a ‘thumbs up’ to the government and the decision. This being the first major acquisition decision of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, the follow-up will be watched with interest and will give a good indication of the viability of ‘Make in India’ and, more importantly, the probability of India’s emergence as a power of consequence.

With the dust having settled and with no further progress after the initial flurry of statements, this is therefore a good time to reflect on why this decision was taken and what can be unravelled about the real truth of India’s armed forces and defence preparedness.

The sad neglect of defence modernisation under the decade-long United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule has made most branches of the armed forces so ‘hollow’ that conventional deterrence — the prime peacetime ‘raison d'etre’ of the forces — is grossly eroded. Our nuclear neighbours (Pakistan and China) can continue to follow and further their policies, confident in their beliefs that India is not capable of effective military options in pursuance of its national interest. In the recent past, the political leadership didn't care (or comprehend) and the military leadership could only wring their hands. The reality is that the water is already well above the head. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, who is chartered to review government operations, has, in a recent report, highlighted the grave shortages in ‘war ammunition reserves’.  Ironically, this person, by virtue of his previous appointments, is culpable for the mess. The reality, however, is that this report is just a reiteration of what has already been repeatedly told to the government by the forces. These are facts and no exaggeration.

Coming specifically to Rafale: the government had no option but to acquire two squadrons worth of aircraft ASAP in the backdrop of the deadlock on the 126 aircraft contract, the issues about the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with Russia, delays in the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and the serviceability of SU-30 squadrons. Russia is reluctant to share complete design details of the FGFA and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) share in joint production will drop from 25 per cent to 13 per cent. For once, the Air Chief would have made it clear, that as it stands, India is not capable of fighting a two-front war and, thankfully, somebody listened. Under normal circumstances, buying these 36 planes would be a poor decision but under the present circumstances it is a ‘forced decision by a desperate man’. However, there are implications the Air Force will have to live with, unless there is a follow-up add on to the 36. There are issues of maintenance, logistics, crew management and operational planning. The acquisition of new technology from a new source will add to the burden of inventory proliferation and training of maintenance personnel in an air force whose inventory is 75 per cent of Soviet/Russian origin. It is therefore hoped that the long-term implications have been thought through at the political level.

The kick start to the Air Force modernisation plan will need to be followed up with similar initiatives for the Army and the Navy, since both have their own ‘must-get’ lists. Adequate fiscal commitment for ‘in the wings’ acquisitions will require a defence budget which is more than 2 per cent of the GDP. The government will be hard-pressed to meet this need, until the annual growth rate exceeds 8 per cent and subsidies are greatly reduced. This is a challenge the government will have to address immediately, head on. The problem will be accentuated by the further ballooning of the revenue expenditure, post the Seventh Pay Commission, for the extremely manpower-intensive Army, the second largest in the world (behind only China and ahead of the US, Russia and North Korea).

What about ‘Make in India’? Obviously, the government has realised that saying and doing are two different things. The much-hyped enablement of the private sector in defence manufacturing is not going to happen in the next five to 10 years. Despite the outwardly exuberance of the five or so, so-called ‘defence majors’ of India and an equal number ‘new to the bandwagon’ companies, India is not likely to make a quick switch from the public sector to the private sector for major equipment like tanks, combat aircraft and naval ships. The change will have to be gradual, since the public sector has huge infrastructure, investments, manpower and technical expertise, which will have to be vectored into ‘Make in India’. Capping FDI at 49 per cent for virtually all defence manufacturing will also have to be revisited. The government succumbed to the domestic industrial lobbies despite the obvious reality to go beyond 50 per cent. The earlier the Indian business houses realise this, the better off they will be, because nobody parts with high-end technologies without requisite control. It is therefore essential that concerted efforts are made to streamline the public sector, gradually increase the opportunities for the private sector and increase the FDI, so that the whole industry becomes competitive and high-tech rather than inward looking.

In conclusion, firstly, India’s conventional deterrence is quite eroded and will need almost a decade of sincere efforts to restore it to a viable level. Secondly, modernisation will need a much larger fiscal support, a challenge the government must address immediately. Thirdly, a holistic review of force structures and war-waging potential is overdue, preferably by civilian and military experts, jointly. Lastly, considerable farsightedness is required to actualise ‘Make in India’. Expediency must not trump wisdom. All the above can be done but it will not be easily done. The taxpayer must demand it from their elected representatives.
3 IAF men drowned _in rivulet at Morni
Posted at Barwala Air Force Station, the youths had gone on outing
Hina Rohtaki

Tribune News Service

Panchkula, July 19
Three youths employed with the IAF were washed away by the strong currents of the Chhamala rivulet, a tributary of the Ghaggar, at Morni here this evening. Two of them were trying to save their friend from drowning.

The deceased have been identified as MS Chahal, K Kumar and Vikas Kumar. Their fourth friend, Pankaj, was also with them on an outing when the incident took place. The victims were in the age group of 23 to 25. Due to incessant rain in Morni, the rivulet had got flooded.

According to the police, all four friends, working at the Barwala Air Force Station, had gone on an outing on Sunday. Chahal and Vikas were working as LACs while Pankaj and K Kumar were posted as CPLs in the technical wing.

While Chahal is from Bathinda, Vikas and Pankaj are from Bihar and K Kumar is from Andhra Pradesh.

All four of them had come in Chahal’s jeep to Morni. They were enjoying near the Chhamala bridge at Kahatal village when all of a sudden, the water level rose.

“Chahal had just stepped into the rivulet when the water level rose and he was washed away by the strong currents. In a bid to save him, Vikas Kumar and K Kumar also jumped into the water, but they too were washed away,” said a police official.

Pankaj shouted for help following which villagers reached the spot and jumped into the water to save the lives of the youths. However, the youths had drowned by then and their bodies were recovered.

The victims were declared brought dead at a local hospital.

Senior officials of the IAF reached the spot. The SHO of the Chandimandir police station, Inspector Suraj Chawla, said the bodies had been kept in the mortuary of the General Hospital, Sector 6. “Their families have been informed and they are on the way,” said the SHO.

Past incident
In 2013, six youths had drowned in a rivulet near Burjkotiyan. Eight friends had gone for a birthday bash when the incident took place. Due to incessant rain, the water level had risen, resulting in the mishap.
Western Command plans infra work _in border areas
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
As the civilian populace of the border areas of Jammu district continue to remain in the line of fire due to ceasefire violations, the Chandimandir-based Western Command has drawn up plans to carry out a series of developmental activities and welfare measures to provide them basic infrastructure.

Over the next few months, the Command Headquarters has proposed projects worth about Rs 168.65 lakh, which include full education support in Army Public School for 36 students of the Jammu region, provision of computer laboratories in two villages and construction of vocational training centres, community halls, kitchens, stores and toilets in some villages.

A vermi-compost project as well as biogas and solar energy plants and are also in the pipeline, besides providing educational facilities to children of the Gujjar and Bakkarwal communities. A T-20 cricket tournament with teams from border regions of Jammu, Samba and Kathua will be held later this year.

A senior officer in Western Command said three major anti-terrorist operations were carried out by the Western Command over the past few months in the Samba-Kathua area in which nine terrorists were eliminated, though four soldiers and five civilians also lost their lives.

Special tasks are also being undertaken by the Command to assist the civilian population in the area that came under fire from across the border. Besides providing rations, drinking water, warm clothing, tents and other amenities, medical assistance is provided to locals and repair and construction of bomb shelters is being undertaken for villagers to take cover in case of mortar firing.
9 militants of banned outfit killed in Pak
Karachi, July 19
At least nine militant commanders of a proscribed outfit, who were involved in the killing of 44 personnel from frontier works department, were killed today during a clash with paramilitary troops in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province.

Frontier Corps (FC), on a tip off about the presence of militants, launched a search operation in Awaran district. On seeing the FC personnel, the militants opened fire on them and in retaliatory fire, nine commanders of the banned outfit were killed, Geo news reported.

The FC seized large cache of arms and explosives from the possession of the militants. The Home Department has claimed that those commanders, killed during search operation, were involved in the killing of 44 FWO personnel besides other incidents. — PTI

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